Though it has been several months now since the release of Resolution, the only episode of Doctor Who in 2019, the full impact of the story still hasn’t sunk in. Despite the positive response that most fans had to Series 11, an undeniable flaw with the series was that none of the villains felt truly scary, and due to the fact that Chibnall has opted for a more child-friendly interpretation of the show than we have ever seen before in the New Series, each and every episode struggled to scare or thrill most of the audience. In that regard, Series 11 was a bitter failure.
However, fear factor is not the only criteria used to judge Doctor Who. In fact, by most people’s reckoning, Series 11 was a success as it managed to create an excellent jumping-on point, making the show more accessible to younger fans (who are, at the end of the day, the future of the show) and also establish a decent base that Series 12 can build upon. Had the ten episodes of Series 11 stood alone, then perhaps we would be more pessimistic – but Series 11 was saved at the eleventh hour by a certain upstart New Years Special.
To get it out of the way, it must be said that Resolution is no masterpiece. However, it is perhaps the best Dalek story of the decade, although there are several factors that blur this assertion not least being the fact that the episode has two plots running concurrently – the interesting plot, involving a single deranged Dalek going on a rampage after building itself a junk casing out of scrap, and the boring plot, involving a microwave salesman. Those who predicted that Ryan’s deadbeat dad would appear at some point in the series were proved right, perhaps a little earlier than they were expecting.
Throughout Series 11 one of the main recurring issues was the characters – not just the companions, but almost every character who appeared in the series. Often character motives or feelings would be expressed through expository dialogue, and whilst this is forgivable for one-shot characters who who get less than 20 minutes of screentime, but it is a poor way to develop a companion. Ryan was perhaps the most exposition-built companions of the bunch, and the vast majority of his dialogue had something to do with his dad walking out on him when he was a child.
The issue here is that, with Ryan’s deadbeat dad situation now resolved, what else really is there for him to talk about? According to Series 11, Ryan is a person who likes to talk about his neglectful father and mention that he has dyspraxia – and following Resolution, his potential topics of conversation have now been halved. Whilst this is a testiment to how flimsy Ryan’s character really is, hopefully in Series 12 the writers will use this clean slate oppurtunity to write Ryan as an actual character and not the flattest in a lineup of cardboard-cutouts. There is some great potential for this, as the scene in the diner in Resolution in which Ryan sits down and talks to his father is actually really moving, and proves that Tosin Cole has great potential as an actor. Hopefully the writers will have a long hard think about how they can use what Series 11 establishes to make Series 12 better.
With the wider concerns out of the way, it’s time to talk about what should be the primary focus of any Dalek story – the Dalek. And Resolution’s Dalek is probably the best singular example of the species that we have seen on the show since Dalek Sec. A cunning, manipulative and surprisingly boastful ‘Recon Scout’ who, after centuries of being trapped on Earth without a casing, has gone completely insane. The basic idea for the story is brilliant, and resembles the kind of imaginative idea you normally get from Big Finish rather than the mainline series – the Dalek mutant, separated from its casing, hijacks a woman’s body and uses her to get around, build a new casing and, of course, murder people. Credit has to be given to Charlotte Ritchie for her incredible performance as Lin, particularly once she has been taken over. The powerful stare coupled with the sickeningly gleeful smile when she carries out an extermination makes her a highlight of the episode, to the point where I was almost sad when the Dalek finally gets its casing back because we wouldn’t be seeing any more of Ritchie’s fantastic Dalek performance.
Neverthless, when the Dalek does get its casing, that is when the episode really picks up. An already respectable body count from Lin’s massacre is quadrupled as the newly-armoured Dalek takes on an entire platoon of British military, including a tank, and exterminates them all. As good as Moffat was at understanding the psychology of the Daleks and offering more nuanced takes on their philosophy, his Dalek stories lacked one vital ingredient – copius amounts of death. Resolution makes up for this by demonstrating the power of the Daleks and providing the first real threat that the Doctor and her friends faced in the entire series. For a one-off design, the Dalek itself is excellent – admittedly, when it first wobbled through the door for its dramatic reveal, my first reaction was to chuckle – the ramshackle parts coupled with the oddly offset design made it seem almost comical. However, we soon find out that this Dalek is just as deadly as its pristine counterparts – perhaps even more so. Whilst fans likely wouldn’t take to it as a standard Dalek design, the one-off Resolution Dalek must be praised for its unique design and thecreative implementation of the first example of a fully-remote-controlled Dalek prop in Doctor Who history.
Resolution proved a lot of things. It proved once again that the Daleks are just as fearsome as ever, it proved that a New Year’s Day Special can work, and it proved that Chibnall and his team can write an excellent Doctor Who story when they embrace the pre-existing aspects of the show that made it so popular in the first place. However, whilst fan reaction to Resolution were largely positive, there was something else that it proved – it proved that the Thirteenth Doctor will need to change as the series progresses.
In many ways, Resolution finally laid bare the primary issue with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, an issue that has plagued several great Doctors early in their tenure – she is almost impossible to take seriously, due to her child-like personality and bumbling nature. For a now-2000 year-old Gallifreyan Highborn the Doctor seems to have suddenly reverted back to the mind of a child in this recent regeneration – we have seen this happen before, as the Third, Seventh, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors all started out with unstable or ‘silly’ personalities when they first appeared, and mellowed as their time on the show went on. Having a silly Doctor can work with the more whimsical episodes but when facing a threat like the Daleks the whimsicality has to drop and a serious tone must take over, otherwise the audience doesn’t stand a chance of taking the show seriously. As introductory seasons go, Series 11 certainly presents the Doctor as likeable, and Jodie Whittaker does a fantastic job with the scripts, but it doesn’t give fans much to go on in terms of the Doctor’s drives and ethos other than the generic ‘I like to save the day’ trope.
For this reason, the Thirteenth Doctor will have to undergo a dramatic personality shift as her tenure continutes. Undoubtedly this is what Chris Chibnall and the other lead writers have planned, but it would have been nice to see some hints as to what direction they want to take the character in Series 11 itself, to give fans who are unsure about the Thirteenth Doctor’s current characterisation some reassurance that she will mature as time goes on. The Eleventh Doctor, often regarded as among the most child-like Doctors, got a scene in his second episode, The Beast Below, in which he is confronted with an ethical dilemma so heartbreaking that the bumbling child-like exterior fell away and we got to see the darker side to the then-new Doctor early on. So far in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run we have had is a vague over-arching theme of family, which could foreshadow a dramatic plot development later in the show (such as the death of a companion) and another pseudo-theme of the Doctor accepting responsibility for her actions through the Tzim-Sha arc. These are interesting points that can be built on in Series 12, but are ultimately not enough on their own to shore up the Thirteenth Doctor’s lacklustre character development.
Overall, Resolution is a great episode that gives fans hope for big improvements in Series 12, but it is by no means perfect and, although fulfilling its role of bringing the Daleks back to our screens in a big way, it perhaps tried to be too many things at once by cramming nearly half a series of sideplots into a 50 minute story. Hopefully the future will prove Resolution to be a key turning point in the Thirteenth Doctor’s tenure, and now that Chibnall’s ‘pilot’ series is over we can look forward to a bigger, better and more bombastic Series 12 after what we saw from the New Years Special.
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